How to Create an Effective Candidate Profile |

We’ve all seen just how competitive it has become to hire the best candidates. Not only do organisations have to be faster, better and more efficient, they also have to attract the right candidates in order to drive the business in the direction they want.

That’s why companies are now investing time and money into building effective candidate profiles. The best way to think about a candidate profile is to think of a customer profile. Who does your ideal candidate look like and what are the things that are most important to you and your business in finding your new employee?

In this guide we are going to cover what a candidate profile is (in more detail), elements of an ideal candidate profile and the steps you can take to create a compelling candidate profile. 

What is a candidate profile?

A candidate profile is similar to a customer profile; the main difference is that a customer profile identifies who your ideal customer is for the product or service you are offering whilst a candidate profile is designed to give you a vision around the ideal candidate who will be applying for a role in your organisation.

Anyone who has worked with or in sales and marketing teams will know about buyer personas. They are similar to buyer personas  in that they help attract, excite, and engage desirable candidates precisely for the role that is needed. 

A candidate profile essentially functions as a blueprint, ultimately helping recruiters to map out the desired personality traits and attributes for a specific open role. It should be engaging, snappy and easily manageable for your recruitment team to identify. 

Most candidate profiles are made up of three sets of qualities:

  • Personality traits
  • Past work history and experience
  • Skills and abilities, both soft and hard

They differ from a job description in many ways. A job description is designed to give an overview of the requirements of the job. It also provides a high level of detail so that a misunderstanding with the employee about his or her job responsibilities is never in doubt.

A candidate profile on the other hand is designed to provide more information about the internal expectations of the ideal candidate who applies for a role. What would make them the ideal candidate based on a myriad of factors.

Elements of an ideal candidate profile

One of the most important aspects of a candidate profile is that when you create one, you are doing it in a back to front manner. Effectively you are thinking about the position that needs to be filled.

Each candidate profile should define the attributes required to meet the needs of that position. These attributes should should also consist of the following information:

  • Personality traits
  • Previous work experience 
  • Skills and aptitudes (soft and hard)

Based on these attributes, you can divide them into must have qualities and nice to have qualities.

Must-have qualities are qualities that are required for the candidate to be able to perform in their role. For example, a successful member of your marketing team might need:

  • Strategic & logical but can add value creatively
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Positive and optimistic attitude
  • Goal-oriented and motivated by campaign management
  • Problem-solving drive to help customers

A nice to have quality would be something like, “must have Adobe Suite knowledge” it’s not a necessary trait but can be a beneficial differentiator.

As previously mentioned, there is a lot to be learned from the idea of what a customer profile is as it can help to give a better understanding of what a candidate profile can look like. As discussed, they are different for a variety of reasons - mainly that a customer profile is aimed at understanding who the ideal customer can be whilst a candidate profile is identifying your ideal candidate. 

However, another key difference between the two is that while in marketing identifying attributes such as age, gender, location etc. are relevant - in recruitment these are protected attributes that can’t be used to make hiring decisions.

Steps to create a compelling candidate profile

When it comes to building the best candidate profiles, you want to take a very structured approach so that you can identify all of the things you want to cover but equally, find the best candidate without creating a lot of rigidity in the profile. 

Start by clearly analysing your organisation and several key aspects of it, in particular:

  • Get a measure / view of the company culture and values
  • Assessment of the team culture. The larger your organisation, the more cultures will be present in different teams. Be sure to accommodate for this when creating your candidate profile as it can vary from your general business culture. 
  • Details of requirements specific to the role. You can’t use the same profile for different roles. I.e. A sales role is different to a marketing role etc. 

Here are some of the recommended steps for building a great candidate profile: 

Step 1: Define and describe the company and team cultures

Spend any time with large companies and you will begin to notice that there are generic statements about culture and values that run through. However, within these large companies, teams have individual cultures and values that make the role unique to those teams. Smaller organisations will feel more like the latter in this case. 

It’s why it’s important to clearly recognise these team cultures and create what is an accurate picture of the team and organisational culture, and where possible find as much crossover between the two so that you can create a better understanding for the ideal candidate profile. 

Step 2: Clearly define and describe the duties and responsibilities of the role

Remember, this is not a job description however, it is important that you do define and describe the duties and responsibilities of the role. 

For each duty / requirement consider:

  • Is this something the candidate must already have or be capable of in order to succeed? These can’t be trained. The candidate must already have these either because they were learnt or are inherent to their character. 
  • Is this something that would be beneficial if the candidate already has this capability but isn’t essential on day 1? These are not inherent in their character, and aren’t necessary for success. 
  • Is this something the candidate doesn’t need because we will provide what’s required (e.g. training)? We can give these things to candidates with training and time. Unless it is a role where this is already needed. 

These qualities are important because they include both the hard and soft skills. Hard skills are things like knowledge of mathematics or science or even program software, whilst the soft skills are really about characteristics and who that person is. Cooperative natures, outgoing personalities, optimism, and a drive to solve problems are all soft skills. 

Step 3: What are the attributes of existing, successful employees?

If you want to create the perfect candidate profile for a role you’ve never had, the only way to do it is by taking the time to see what successful employees in that position did so well. What was it about them and their skills that made them so good? What did they have to learn in order to succeed? 

Getting first feedback from those who are already working in similar roles and / or in the same team is going to be a great use of time and resources as you can clearly identify the answer to many of these questions. 

You can also take a view to observe and be direct with them and managers so that you create the ideal candidate profile. Do this by: 

Studying them at work

  • What do they do? What does their day look like compared to others in the team?
  • How do they do it? Is their effort any different or are they being more economical/using different methods to complete tasks? 
  • What makes them successful? What’s the secret to success that they have? It may be a soft skill but if you can identify it, all the better for the candidate profile. 

Talking to their managers to derive insight

What makes them stand out from the others in their team? What qualities do they have that can’t be replicated or sourced by hiring a new team member? 

Talking to them directly 

  • Ask them what it takes to be successful at what they are doing. 
  • What motivates them and keeps them interested on a day to day basis? 
  • What are they setting for their level to succeed? 

Step 4: Refine hard skills into ‘must have’ essentials

What is clear is that for any role, you have a large set of hard skills that are relevant for an employee to complete their duties. Now, however, you must refine this list of hard skills into something that is usable for your candidate profile, job listing, interviews and the entire hiring framework.

You then need to divide these skills into separate sections which include; what you need and can’t train, what you need but can train, what you want, and what isn’t necessary. 

Anything that cannot be provided through training should go on the ‘must haves’ list. This is often the most important element and the bulk of the candidate profile.

Finally, review the ‘must have’ hard skills and remove any which aren’t essential and can be ‘nice to have’ attributes.

Step 5: Refine soft skills into a shortlist of ‘must haves’

Once again, like the hard skills segment, you will have a list of soft skills that are going to influence any hiring decision. Whilst they may be completely necessary and relevant to the role, being able to assess them is not so easy - and much harder to train if a candidate is lacking them. 

Because they are harder to identify and harder to train, aim to be selective over ‘must have’ soft skills. 

Step 6: Refine the ‘nice to have’ qualities

The previous two steps have been in order to refine your hard and soft skills - remembering that the latter needs to be more considered as the more “must haves” in the soft skills makes it harder to find the ideal candidate.

Now you need to select your, ‘nice-to-have’ qualities, skills, and features that set a candidate above the rest. Organisations will run into a few issues here. 

Firstly, there is a tendency to put the ‘nice-to-have’ qualities into a ‘must have’ category. When you do that, you make the pool of potential candidates too small and you’ll never find anyone. 

The second is that you can then create a very lengthy list of ‘nice to haves’. This can inflate the job listing and suppresses certain types of applicants. 

Try to aim for key ‘nice to have’ qualities that can be used when assessing applicants.

Step 7: Identify sources from which relevant candidates can be found

Knowing where to advertise for the vacancy - along where the candidate profile will be posted is going to be key. Understand that your ideal candidate will be in different online communities (more professional than personal or vice versa), have different interests and so on. You need to be strategic with your sources and where you post your job listing. 

Once the candidate profile has been drafted - derive reviews from all relevant stakeholders. Ask successful employees if it matches who they are, or what they have experienced. Speak to the managers to see what their take on it is. Also - compare with candidate profiles for similar roles posted by competitor organisations. Aim to be more appealing than them where you can. 

In summary

It has become increasingly hard to find the ideal candidate and subsequently, employee for businesses in this competitive market place. But by taking the time to create a candidate profile in your recruitment practices, you can already identify the ones who not only have the hard skills but also the soft ones to really make a successful impact in your organisation.

The Thomas Recruitment Platform helps you to identify both the hard and soft skills in candidates and can provide assessment tools to give you a better idea of where additional training may be required.